Thanks to some sort of divine intervention, I learned that Charlaine Harris (author of Sookie Stackhouse novels turned HBO seriesTrue Blood) would be visiting Miami to kick off her Deadlocked tour this year at my local Books & Books. Ever since I've gotten into this book blogging business I've paid more attention to author appearances and book events around town, and the amount of cool stuff going on is pretty amazing.
We've learned that this is the penultimate book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries/Sookie Stackhouse series. When asked about it at tonight's event, Charlaine Harris said her "heart just isn't in it any more." Basically, she's done what she can for the series, she's fulfilling what is demanded of her by contract to the best of her abilities and then Sookie is going to be put to rest.
This is both a good and a bad thing. Of course, the good part is that Harris isn't taking the money-milking route and possibly derailing the whole story. She wants to end the series in a dignified manner in what she believes will be the best ending for Sookie - the kind that she believes would leave her the happiest. Does it have anything to do with romance with vampires? Apparently, Harris herself doesn't even know it yet, and the final book is going to be titled Dead Ever After, so make of that what you will.
About the Q&A Session:
The lighting was not flattering for Harris, so empty podium.
Lots of folks asked Harris questions about her various series, the kind of work she's doing now, her involvement with True Blood and about the upcoming project with Syfy (in which she plans on being more involved than she had been with True Blood). She had a lot of great responses to everything and kept the room roaring with laughter almost the entire time with her quick and sharp answers.
Right now, Harris has a lot on her plate. She's writing the final Sookie book while having just finished up the writing for a graphic novel, preparing for all the hubbub with Syfy and has just signed another contract with Ace Books for another, new book series. When she was asked how long it'd take her to write these new books, her easy response was "Whatever time it says in the contract is what I've got." While it's clear that she treats all of her work with equal passion and heart, she kept it real with jokes here and there about delivering manuscripts on time and getting paid for it. To the jealous dismay of most of the crowd, she also tossed in a gloat about having met the entire cast of True Blood.
When asked about her favorite characters in True Blood or favorite castings, the first that came up was Jessica. I had read about her feelings on Jessica (played by Deborah Ann Woll) in an interview she did with the Miami Herald, and her response was basically the same: she wishes she'd thought her up because Jessica is such a great character. Harris also made a comment about how beautiful she is in person.
The other cast members that came up were Chris Bauer who portrays Andy Bellefleur and Joe Manganiello who plays Alcide. To the former she said he's a wonderful person and a very fitting Andy, and to the latter of course those familiar with the book series would definitely picture someone like Joe as the grumpy werewolf Alcide, but Harris also interjected he complains that because of her books he's got two-hour workouts daily. Not like anyone minds.
One interesting point of discussion was when someone asked her if the characters Jason (Sookie's brother) and Gran were reflections of people she knows in real life. Her response about Jason is that she thinks everyone has someone like him in their lives. He's a selfish jerk but deep down a good guy that cares about his sister. As for Gran, her comment was, "I think Gran is the best thing that ever happened to Sookie." She sympathized with Sookie's parents who had the hardship of trying to raise a "troubled child," but given the negative atmosphere that was for her, things turned for the better when she went under her grandmother's care.
Besides these things, she was asked some unrelated questions about stuff like, what does she do when she's stumped? What advice would she have for aspiring writers? To these she said the best way to become a writer is to "Sit on your butt and write. You can have a great idea, but if you don't write it down, you've got nothing." When she's stumped and can't figure out how to keep going with a story, if working on some other tasks and coming back to it later doesn't work, she decides she's messed up somewhere and goes back to earlier parts of the draft to fix the hole she wrote herself into. It's pretty apt (and honest) advice, I think.
Finally, there was a question about whether she'd be back next year in order to tour Dead Ever After. Her response to that, before the girl had even properly finished asking the question was a flat-out "No." She has no plans to tour for two rather good reasons. The first is her daughter is graduating from college in May of next year, so that's going to be keeping her busy. The second is that she is aware that by ending the series she won't necessarily please everyone and wants to give it time for the dust to settle. It's probably better that way for her own well being, though I'm a bit sad I'll probably have to wait a long while before I can sit at another talk with her. At the very least, she made it clear that she is under contract (that word "contract" came up various times during the talking session) to participate in a short story anthology each year and that part of it is she had to write a Sookie story. So, while she doesn't plan on writing any more novels, we'll certainly get little morsels here and there.
About the Signing
Woo - dark picture! Rockin' the Batman.
After the talk was over (it was half an hour of straight questions and answers before the audience ran out of things to ask about) everyone mobbed over to the other side of the book shop to get their books signed. This was made quick and painless by the experienced staff at Books & Books. There was one person stationed halfway down the line taking names to put post-its in the books for reference/spelling, one girl at the front of the line preparing books for the author to sign, and a third girl to the side ready to take cameras from guests and clicking away confidently to capture the moment.
While I was getting two books signed by Harris, I remembered what I wanted to ask her. Are the book titles supposed to be unintentionally hilarious? At first, her response was "Well, they could be!" I mentioned that with "Dead" somewhere in the title of every book, some of them just seemed funny to me and kept the tone rather light, outwardly. She told me that actually, the book titles were decided by the publishers and not herself, so she didn't have any control over them. Of course, she added she is glad to know I find them funny, but wanted to assure me they are not her creation.
And with that, I came, saw and conquered my very first author event! Since I never really tuned into that sort of thing before, I hadn't ever met any authors of works I enjoy besides any that happened to be at my university while I was studying. It was a fun experience and now I plan to be more aware of the goings-on so I could meet more cool authors. Harris is a total charmer and well worth a sit, even if you don't read her books, if only for her insight and humorous responses to whatever questions everyone throws her way. I hope I have a chance to meet her again, or even interview her on my own!
Are you in a city being visit by Charlaine Harris? Check her events schedule!
[image of Deadlocked cover via Charlaine's webpage, all others via my mobile]
Purchase at Books-a-Million!
Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris - Hardcover